History and Hope in the Heart of Dixie
Scholarship, Activism, and Wayne Flynt in the Modern South
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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"You don’t love because,” William Faulkner once wrote. “You love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.” For Wayne Flynt, an abiding love for his state and region has not prevented his recognizing the inequities and despair that de¤ne southern life for so many. As a scholar, he traced the contours of southern political history, documented the lives of poor whites, and...
1. Can Any Good Thing Come from Auburn?
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A few years ago Russell Jacoby lamented what he saw as the disappearance of the sort of old-fashioned intellectual “who write[s] with vigor and clarity . . . for the general reader.” In his book The Last Intellectuals, he argued that such folks have become “as scarce as low rents in New York or San Francisco,” replaced by “high-tech intellectuals, consultants and professors—...
2. Revisiting Race Relations in an Upland South Community: LaCrosse, Arkansas
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Wayne Flynt loves a good story. Anyone who has known him for very long can testify to that. Maybe it’s the Baptist preacher in him. Maybe it’s the southerner in him. And maybe all southerners have a little bit of Baptist preacher in them. Having read too many lifeless histories, I’m convinced it’s not the historian in him. Whatever the reason, Wayne appreciates a good...
3. Southern Accents: The Politics of Race and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964
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In an effort to place the modern struggle for civil rights in a wider context, some historians have referred to this crusade as the Second Reconstruction. While this may not be an accurate assessment for the entire grassroots campaign for freedom that accelerated after World War II, it is an appropriate label for the federal response to African-American demands that the nation...
4. Is There a Balm in Gilead? Baptists and Reform in North Carolina 1900–1925
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When the noted professor and theologian Walter Rauschenbusch took the podium before the Southern Sociological Congress in 1913, his audience recognized him as the nation’s leading advocate of the social gospel. In the face of tremendous suffering caused by industrialization, immigration, and urbanization—widespread poverty, poor public health, illiteracy, malnutrition,...
5. The Beginnings of Interracialism: Macon, Georgia, in the 1930s
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With good reason has historian Dan T. Carter characterized the 1930s and ’40s as a turning point, if not a watershed, in the Age of Segregation. The Great Depression, of course, shaped the psyche of a generation of Americans and hit the South particularly hard. In 1937 the region’s per capita income of $314 was roughly half that of the rest of the country, and a year later President...
6. Race, Class, the Southern Conference, and the Beginning of the End of the New Deal Coalition
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Although no one could know it at the time, the New Deal held within it the seeds of its own destruction. While the program would eventually develop into a political partnership of unparalleled strength and effectiveness, it would also harbor tensions and contradictions that made it, from the beginning, temporary and ephemeral—doomed to do anything but last. Nowhere...
7. “Wallaceism is an insidious and treacherous type of disease": The 1970 Alabama Gubernatorial Election and Alabama Politics
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The 1970 Democratic gubernatorial primary election in Alabama is widely considered the nastiest in state history. That election saw George Wallace use the divisive and destructive politics of race to defeat Albert Brewer, who had assumed the governorship in 1968 after Wallace’s wife, Lurleen, succumbed to cancer in the middle of her term. After a relatively clean primary, Brewer...
8. Divide and Conquer: Interest Groups and Political Culture in Alabama, 1929–1971
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In his monumental study of poverty in Alabama, Poor but Proud, Wayne Flynt artfully yet methodically challenges a thousand stereotypes about poor whites. Far from being toothless rednecks content to spit tobacco, swill rotgut, and blast racoons with Granddaddy’s 12-gauge, the poor whites Flynt described had digni¤ed lives characterized by devotion to family, worshiping...
9. The Scholar as Activist
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Pontotoc, Mississippi, was not a place I had visited, or even heard of, prior to becoming acquainted with Wayne Flynt. Its relative obscurity and small, southern, country-town character made it like a thousand others scattered throughout the Deep South. But only from such a place as Pontotoc, and many small towns in between, could there emerge an activist-scholar such as...
10. Evangelist for Constitutional Reform
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In the spring of 2002, the Journalism Department at the University of Alabama bestowed on Wayne Flynt its Clarence Cason Writing Award. Flynt joined a circle of former winners that included luminaries such as Edward O. Wilson, the biologist and Pulitzer Prize recipient, and Gay Talese, the renowned nonfiction writer. The awards committee, on which I had the pleasure of serving, noted that...
11. The Historian as Public Policy Activist
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In January 1980 I was beginning a Fulbright appointment to teach a seminar on southern history to a group of English schoolteachers attending night classes at the Polytechnic of Central London. Just before I left for my overseas flight, I had packed a copy of Wayne Flynt’s Dixie’s Forgotten People: The South’s Poor Whites,1 recently published in the Minorities in Modern America...
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Publication Year: 2006